Date Thesis Awarded


Access Type

Honors Thesis -- Open Access

Degree Name

Bachelors of Arts (BA)




Jennifer Putzi

Committee Members

Christopher MacGowan

Richard Lowry

Hannah Rosen


This thesis explores Civil War popular literature related to "contraband" individuals by Black and white authors. In May 1861, those who escaped from enslavement to Union territory were deemed "contrabands of war," a label placing them between freedom and property. This purgatorial category delayed freedom and depicts formerly enslaved persons as both intellectual and literal property of white America. Across various poems, essays, speeches, novels, illustrated envelopes, and sketches, Civil War authors debated the function of the “contrabands” within the American social order. Consequently, this thesis explores the patterns through which the uniquely transitory nature of the “contraband" allowed the term to become a creative vessel through which Black and white authors investigated the changing American landscape in the face of emancipation.